Saturday, December 05, 2009

Nietzsche's pants

Excerpts from a letter from 24-year old Friedrich Nietzsche, reporting on the farcical preliminaries of his first meeting with German composer and icon Richard Wagner.

Thinking that many people were invited, I decided to dress very smartly, and was glad that my tailor had promised for this same Sunday an evening suit. It was a terrible day of rain and snow; I shuddered at the thought of going out…

It was getting dark, the tailor had not come, and Roscher left. I went with him, visited the tailor in person, and found his slaves hectically occupied with my suit; they promised to send it in three-quarters of an hour. I left contentedly, dropping in at Kintschy’s [café-restaurant], read Kladderadatsch [humor magazine], and found to my pleasure the notice that Wagner was in Switzerland but that a beautiful house was being built for him in Munich; all the time I knew that I would see him that same evening and that he had yesterday received a letter from the little king [Ludwig II of Bavaria, Wagner’s patron] bearing the address: To the great German composer Richard Wagner.

At home I found no tailor, read in a leisurely way …, and was disturbed now and then by a loud but distant ringing. Finally I grew certain that someone was waiting at the patriarchal wrought-iron gate; it was locked, and so was the front door of the house. I shouted across the garden to the man and told him to come into the Naundörfchen: it was impossible to make oneself understood through the rain. The whole house was astir; finally the gate was opened, and a little old man with a package came up to my room. It was six-thirty, time to put on my things and get myself ready, for I live very far out.

Right, the man has my things, I try them on, they fit. An ominous moment; he presents the bill. I take it politely; he wants to be paid on receipt of the goods. I am amazed, and explain that I will not deal with him, an employee of my tailor, but only with the tailor himself, to whom I gave the order.

The man becomes more pressing, the time becomes more pressing; I seize the things and begin to put them on; the man seizes the things, and stops me from putting them on- force on my side, force on his side. Scene: I am fighting in my shirttails, for I am trying to put on my new trousers.

Finally, a show of dignity, solemn threat, cursing my tailor and his assistant, swearing revenge; meanwhile the little man is moving off with my things. End of second act: I brood on the sofa in my shirttails and consider a black jacket, whether it is good enough for Richard.

Outside the rain is pouring down.

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